Ruben Studdard changed his life — won a recording contract and millions of fans — when he became the Season 2 "American Idol" winner in 2003. But his next reality TV project could be more than life-changing … it could be life-saving.
Studdard, whose endearing personality and big-man stature earned him the nickname "The Velvet Teddy Bear," has signed on to compete on the next season of NBC's weight-loss reality series "The Biggest Loser."
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The new season, the show's 15th, is scheduled to premiere on NBC in the fall, and Studdard will be among the more than a dozen contestants who put their lives in the hands of physical trainers, nutritional experts, and doctors, in the name of winning by losing hundreds of pounds — often half their body weight.
Studdard, who told People magazine in 2006 that he lost 70 pounds from his 455-pound frame after following a vegetarian diet, has continued to struggle to drop additional pounds.
And after a 2012 divorce ended his four-year marriage to Surata Zuri McCants, Studdard said in a March 2012 appearance on "The Wendy Williams Show" that he has regained most of that weight, with sugary foods, especially red velvet cake, being his stress-eating fix.
Now, as the 34-year-old approaches another birthday in September, he says he wants to get his weight in check before it begins to cause other health issues.
"I've never had an issue with my weight," Studdard has said. "[But] my family has a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart-related issues — things I didn't have to deal with yet because I'm young. But I don't want to be worried at 40, and if I don't fix things now, I will be."
If he wins "The Biggest Loser" battle, Grammy-nominee Studdard will become the first reality show contestant to win two different major TV competitions. "American Idol" Kellie Pickler won season 16 of "Dancing With the Stars" but finished sixth on the fifth season of "Idol."
As for "The Biggest Loser," last season's champ, Danni Allen, lost 121 pounds, 46.9 percent of her body weight. The season's biggest loser in number of pounds was Jeff Nichols, who lost an incredible 181 pounds, 46.65 percent of his body weight.
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Studdard, who has released five albums, recently hinted about a new project on Twitter. "It Has Started!!! Are you ready for the Return of The Velvet Teddy Bear?" Studdard tweeted on June 7, along with a photo of himself in a recording studio.
Check out photos from the last season of "The Biggest Loser":